Music

Interview

Charlotte Abroms takes us inside the making of Angie McMahon’s livestream concert

“It was hands down the most engaged experiment that I’ve been involved in”

While touring has briefly paused, many of our favourite musicians are finding different ways to connect with fans around the world, bringing live music into our homes from their own homes, studios, and venues. In 2020, the world of live stream gigs is a new, magical place.

What makes these homemade gigs truly incredible is that they let us see these artists in a way we probably haven’t before – raw, stripped back, and vulnerable. It’s the kind of genuine human connection we are all longing for – and we can all enjoy it, together, from wherever we are.

There is a lot of work, planning, and logistics that go on behind the scenes of every live streamed gig, so following Angie McMahon’s glorious online, solo piano concert we sat down with her manager Charlotte Abroms to learn about how it all came together.

Main image: Jacqueline Justice

“All the songs I covered from this record were written on guitar, so I’d never played them on piano before,” Angie McMahon says about her live stream concert. “When we went into lockdown, I was really enjoying converting them into these lullaby versions. We had a solo piano show planned in May which was cancelled, so my manager Charlotte and our live sound engineer Jono helped come up with the concept of filming a piano concert on Go Pros and doing a whole gig just as we would have done if we hadn’t been locked down.

“Jono made an incredible effort setting up his studio so that he could record me from down in the house, with the leads running across the garden, and I was out in the studio alone, socially distanced and singing my little head off. Charlotte and Jono set up the cameras and the room, and then our friend Lewis Parsons edited together the footage and Charlotte co-ordinated a promotion plan with friends that we have across the world so that people everywhere could experience the gig on the day.

“I loved being able to share music with people this way, and have high-quality sound and footage but also be able to chat and banter between songs, and it felt like I really was putting on a show. Thank you to everybody who helped make it happen!”

Angie McMahon by Jacqueline Justice-HD
Image: Jacqueline Justice

Charlotte Abrom’s take us through creating Angie McMahon’s live stream concert

The original idea

Charlotte Abroms: “Late last year, Angie announced a show at the Melbourne Recital Centre which sold out quickly. In the space of a week, I received two emails from two separate women who were both heavily pregnant and had missed out on tickets. Being a seated venue, they were initially excited to be able to comfortably attend. This sparked a conversation between Angie and I around accessibility, inclusivity, and the various reasons why it might be difficult for certain groups of people to access live music.

“We talked about people who have anxiety, ill health, those who are hospitalised, imprisoned, disabled, migraine sufferers, the homeless, the elderly, single parents, people in restrictive relationships or rural areas, kids, full-time carers, the heavily pregnant, and more. It ignited a conversation around how many people may not have easy access to live music.

“We came up with the concept of filming a virtual gig to offer digitally to Angie’s fans who may prefer to watch from the comfort of their homes or beds. We aimed to record it in March when Angie finished a run of shows.”

angie mcmahon melbourne recital david harris
Image: Angie McMahon at Melbourne Recital Centre by David Harris

When the pandemic hit

Charlotte Abroms: “When the pandemic hit Australia, we cancelled all of Angie’s upcoming shows, including her first headline tour of the UK/EU which would have been happening now. We took time to adapt to a slower pace before revisiting the virtual concert idea.

“Angie’s sound engineer Jono Steer had just launched his studio The Perch Recording Studio in Castlemaine. Jono adapted to the new circumstances by setting up his studio in a way that means he can remotely record and film an artist performing, while abiding by social distancing measures. Angie was well-rehearsed for a cancelled piano concert she was due to play in May, so we decided Angie’s piano concert would become The Perch’s first socially-distant project.

“We’ve always believed that music can provide people with positivity and hope, it was our goal to adapt in a way that meant we were delivering music to those who felt isolated. It was our goal to create a high-quality recording that felt as close to an intimate live performance as possible.”

Angie McMahon performing ‘Slow Mover’ from the concert – released to celebrate Angie being a recipient of the Levi’s Music Prize.

The recording

Charlotte Abroms: “We invested in three GoPros (two GoPro Hero 8s and one GoPro 360). We subtly placed them around the studio which meant that they weren’t distracting for Angie, and I was able to control them remotely from a different house. In the meantime, Jono was set up within the house while Angie was in the studio and they could communicate via their microphones and headphones to ensure Angie was sound checked and comfortable.

“Angie then performed 37 minutes of bliss which we recorded and filmed. Immediately after the concert was finished we uploaded the footage to send to our friend Lewis Parsons who is an incredible videographer and editor based in Canada.”

behind the scenes
Image L-R: Charlotte setting up the studio / Angie McMahon via the GoPro app / Jono remote mixing

The edit

Charlotte Abroms: “Lewis Parsons did a wonderful job of cutting the concert together, utilising the panning functionality on the GoPro 360 to give the feeling that someone was in the room filming Angie while she was performing. Angie and Lewis worked together to include additional elements; an acknowledgement of country, song titles and end credits. While the footage was being edited, Jono Steer mixed the audio for Lewis to sync with the footage. The audio was then mastered by Adam Dempsey.”

The next day

Charlotte Abroms: “Now we had a handful of solo-piano songs recorded in high quality, Angie and Jono went back into the remote studio rooms to record overdubs of backing vocals, guitar, baritone guitar and percussion.  Angie then had the basis to create an EP, which she has aptly titled Piano Salt EP (out Friday 2 October 2020). All of these stems were sent to Alex O’Gorman, Angie’s long time friend and collaborator. Alex mixed the EP and sent it to Adam Demspey who mastered the song for digital, CD, and vinyl. The EP is now available for pre-order and we have plenty of footage to accompany it.”

angie mcmahon live stream ep

The digital side

Charlotte Abroms: “I extensively researched platforms we could use to house the performance and I couldn’t quite find anything that catered to exactly what we wanted to provide – a straightforward and high-quality user experience. Eventually, I decided to collaborate with others to create the platform ourselves. This is when Kind Face Creative was born – a platform that allows us to promote music, sell tickets, link to artist’s merch and house the performance.

“The designs were created by Alecksey Ageev who was recommended to me by a previous colleague. Alecksey did a fantastic job, working from my sketches and basic wireframes. We then collaborated with Rowan Edward to build the website for us using WordPress, a simple CMS that we self-manage. While Rowan was building, I worked on designing a logo, setting up social media pages, and working on manually typing out the subtitles for the concert itself. We wanted subtitles to cater for those who are hard of hearing, or anyone who wanted to sing along.”

angie mcmahon live stream website-2
Image L-R: Initial website sketch / Website homepage wireframe / Final website design
angie mcmahon live stream subtitles
Image: Live stream subtitles

Partnerships

Charlotte Abroms: “We partnered with Ticketmaster as our global ticketing partner. We have worked with Ticketmaster before and we were impressed with the global reach, efficiency in responding to requests, and the online ticketing portal and analytics. Angie chose to partner with Clothing the Gap to raise awareness and funds for the Free the Flag campaign and successfully raised $2K. Jono was supported by Regional Arts Victoria to help with the set up of his remote studio and adapting to a significant loss of work.

“Our global booking agents, WME, were able to help spread the word in areas Angie was due to play this year – to local promoters, festivals, and venues. We worked alongside Communion UK to promote the concert to their fanbase, as well as Simon Merrimen at Ground Up in Ireland. Angie designed new merch for our Australian merch partners, Soundmerch. Sarah Guppy at This Much Talent looked after local publicity, which led to features in NME, Rolling Stone and triple j. The Piano Salt EP will be released via Dulatone (North America) and AWAL (rest of the world).”

The final results

Charlotte Abroms: “The results were fantastic! We promoted the concert for two weeks, which in hindsight was a relatively short window of time, but as Melbourne was going back into lockdown we wanted to make sure we were providing everyone with some music and something to look forward to.

“The concert was live on Wednesday 29 July 2020 and was available for a short period of time for all ticket holders which meant that it catered to all territories. Users could tune in and watch anywhere in the world, at any time. We had thousands of people watching the concert (including our guest list), with a high percentage of users going back and watching it again. We received wonderful feedback from our team, family and friends locally and internationally, while Angie’s channels were flooded with lovely messages from fans.

“We are excited to have a platform to film more of these concerts, as well as offering our services to make records for local artists while touring is on hold. We’re also discussing the prospect of rescreening Angie’s solo piano concert for those who missed it.

“As a freelance manager who lost a huge portion of my income this year, I am thrilled with the results. It was hands down the most engaged experiment (if you will) that I’ve been involved in during my time in music. People took something from it and they were moved. Angie has an incredibly powerful presence in the way she writes and performs and the feedback we received suggested the audience felt this through their screens all over the world.”

If you are someone who cannot access live music or you work with people who cannot access live music, please feel free to reach out to Kind Face via their Contact Form and they will keep you up to date with future virtual concerts.